Thanksgiving Eve. 1980 we had a little harvest-celebration Thanksgiving service at Beaver Chapel, our little country Church. After the service Lois and I (that was about a year before the children started to come into our lives) got in our little blue VW and started across the state to be with family for Thanksgiving. The car never did heat well, so we had to stay bundled in blankets as we drove through the night. A light snowfall began in added adventure to our trip. With the temperature and the lap robe I imagine it was a little like an old-fashioned sleigh ride.
It was a happy time for a very young couple enjoying their second Thanksgiving together. We hurried in the house through a light dusting of snow and were soon warm again. My sister had made all the arrangements for a meaningful and relaxing time. There was a fire burning when we arrived in their big, warm bungalow-style house in Newark. Scented candles were burning in our room, their fragrance blending with the aroma of pumpkin pies baking. The quilt was turned back and we were soon sleeping warmed above by a thick comforter and beneath by an electric pad.
In the morning the rest of the family drove in for the day, some from around town and others from around the state. Mom and Dad, Kevin and Nathan came from Battle Creek. The day was filled with laughter and conversation, one sentence stepping on the tail of the next.
The centerpiece of our weekend together was of course our family feast at noon on Thanksgiving Day. It was a wonderful meal with our family spilling out into two or three rooms of the house. Grandma was there. It was the first time in my life Grandma was there without Grandpa.
In October of 1980 Grandpa went out with his bow early in the deer season. It was cold and wet and he knew enough to come in but had no intention of doing so. Grandpa did not want to die in a nursing home. He contracted pneumonia and died of congestive heart failure before the trees were bare of leaves that fall.
In the afternoon, the men decided on a little exercise as an aid to digestion. We all went to the Roosevelt school lawn for an all-out game of tag football. Dad, Nate, Kevin, Jim, Paul, Jimmy, Myself, little Jimmy. It was a little cold and I needed a jacket. On the way out the door grandma said; here, wear this. It was your grandpa’s. She handed me a Carter’s denim farm chore jacket with a corduroy collar.
Grandpa kept his coats on the enclosed back porch of the farmhouse. They hung in a row on pegs over the basement door. Underneath them, in the corner he kept his shotguns. He had a small variety of the coats. Some were unlined for early spring and late fall. Others had thick flannel linings that looked like old horse blankets. Grandpa always called his chore coat a “blanket-lined wamus.”
I didn’t have a coat so Grandma loaned me one of Grandpa’s old denim “wamuses” to go out and play football. Memories flooded in when I put it on. Grandpa was a big man for his time and I was proud to be able to fill the coat. After the game I reluctantly gave the coat back to Grandma. To my delight she said; “Why don’t you keep that, I think your Grandpa would want you to have it.” I remembered Grandpa coming across the yard on the old farm, from the milk house with the collar of his chore-coat turned up against the wind.
I still have the coat, but it no longer fits. A couple years ago, in the fall I ran across it and gave it to Kyle, his great grandson, born a year and a week after Grandpa went to be with Lord. It pleased me to see it on him. Grandpa would have appreciated how quick Kyle is to pick up on things. He would have liked his serious nature.
Someday the coat will wear out or it will be removed from the back of his closet and sent to the second-hand store by someone who does not know its history. That’s OK. But there are things about Grandpa, his values and his faith that really should be cherished and passed carefully down from generation to generation. I for one plan to do what I can to see to it that the heritage of character and faith stays in the family!
It would be wonderful to pass stately homes and valuable lands down through the generations, but that’s not always possible. There are valuable things that must be passed down as a priceless legacy though the generations of every Christian family. A legacy of Christian living. A heritage of Godliness. An heirloom-quality faith. A tradition of obedience. I would like to leave a gold watch or a beautiful mountain lodge to my grandchildren that will come, but I would rather leave an heirloom-quality faith.
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children… (Proverbs 13:22 NKJV)